Tag Archive | "F&I"

The Real Value of Ongoing Training

For any training program to truly be effective, it has to be an ongoing process and not a one-time event. Implementing and maintaining an ongoing F&I training program is the key to improving F&I performance and profits at your dealerships.

Building and maintaining an F&I department is like building and maintaining a house: A good design, the use of quality materials and outstanding craftsmanship translates into few problems, minor repairs and a great house! A bad design, cheap materials and poor construction means lots of problems, endless repairs and a lousy house.

In the F&I office, a thoroughly trained F&I professional who takes pride in his craft can deliver amazing results. On the other hand, someone with little or no training, poor processes and no ongoing training virtually guarantees you will have constant headaches, hassles … and lousy performance.

Just like it’s important to pick the right builder, every agent (and every dealer!) tries to pick the right products and the right training. As an agent entrepreneur, you need to evaluate the business philosophy of your training company, its reputation and the number of years it has been in business. How is your training company different from the rest? Is the focus on helping customers or making money? Can you take a virtual tour of the training? Check references and don’t just call your buddies. Call NADA, call AFIP and call some current clients. There is no “free” anything, and that includes F&I training.

When it comes to training, it’s important that you understand the F&I sales process that is being taught. Is it needs based or presentation based? Are they teaching menu selling or step selling? Is it real world or word tracks? Is the focus on helping customers or selling stuff? Is the training designed to meet your needs or their needs? Where is the class conducted? How often?

Whether you’re trying to build a house or an F&I department, changes are easy before you start pouring the concrete! As an agent, if possible, you need to attend the training so you know exactly what is being taught, and can reinforce the training once your F&I managers return from the class.

Is the F&I sales process how you would want your mother treated? I firmly believe if you’re not treating customers the way you’d want your mother treated, you’re doing something terribly wrong. It’s also important to know who is teaching the class. What is the instructor’s experience and background? We’ve all been to a training class where the person teaching the class has never done it and couldn’t do it if his life depended on it, but he’s going to teach you how to do it. Those trainers have zero credibility with an F&I professional.

Pour a Strong Foundation

Just as a good house starts with a good foundation, any ongoing training must be built on a strong foundation. For an ongoing training program to be successful, every F&I manager first must attend the initial training. You can’t build a house with blueprints for a different foundation, and you can’t build your ongoing training program on someone else’s sales process. Everybody has to work off the same set of plans. So pick a process you believe in and require that everybody follow it.

Even the best carpenter still has to anchor the walls to the foundation. Your ongoing training program must be anchored to a strong foundation. Whether you’re building a house or F&I performance, mistakes and change orders get expensive, so it’s critical everybody follows the blueprints and the same F&I process. For example, every customer sees the factory warranty drawing, a menu and at least two visual aids.

Let’s Build Something Great!

Once the F&I manager has attended the initial training class, it’s time to implement your ongoing training program. This is a critical period, whether you’re building a house or an F&I professional. The stud walls may be up, but the slightest wind will knock them over!

The first few days an F&I manager is back in the dealership will determine whether he builds confidence in his new F&I presentation and the non-confrontational sales process he learned in class. Either he will continue to improve his ability to consultatively sell his products, or he will revert to his former, more comfortable presentation the first time a customer refuses to buy anything.

This is also the time when an agent must demonstrate to everyone in the dealership that when it comes to F&I, it’s no longer business as usual. Ongoing training must be part of every F&I manager’s job description and compensation plan! What is the process once an F&I manager gets back from class?

This is when you must establish performance goals and expectations, with specific training assignments, role-play exercises, evaluation criteria and progress mile-markers. Training has to be like brushing your teeth: it’s something you do every day. In life, and in business, you’re either growing or dying. There is no in between. What are you doing today to improve your skills for tomorrow? You can’t expect F&I performance to improve without implementing a process to make it happen!

Ongoing training is what will enable F&I performance and income to soar to new heights at your dealerships, by keeping F&I managers firmly anchored to the fundamentals. One thing that will ensure that your manager’s skills continue to improve is if you create a monthly training calendar with daily training assignments. Training must become part of every manager’s daily routine. Not doing ongoing training is simply not an option! It’s critical, however, you don’t start something you can’t or won’t continue.

Using an online training program eliminates F&I manager excuses, it’s easy to monitor and you don’t have to create it. One-on-one training in the dealership and role-playing with your managers will allow you to determine they are using the techniques they learned in class. The reality is, everybody loves a shortcut, and pretty soon, F&I managers all find dozens of them.

Video recording and reviewing actual presentations allows you to see what’s really happening behind closed doors. You also need to conduct regular testing of every manager’s consultative selling skills. If you want performance to improve, you have to hold your F&I managers accountable, and track effort, not just results.

You may also want to begin talking with your dealers about getting their experienced managers into an advanced class. If it’s been more than three years since their manager has been through a training class, they need to go again. Chances are, they’ve added several new F&I products that they’re still trying to sell the same old way.

You Want Brick Walls or Vinyl Siding?

Whether you’re building a house or building a training program, you get what you pay for! There is no such thing as free training, no matter who is providing it! Any ongoing training program you implement needs to be S.M.A.R.T.E.R.

Specific – You have to provide specific daily training assignments.
Measurable – You need to track training activity, not just F&I performance.
Affordable – The great thing about F&I training, it’s very easy to measure your ROI.
Real world – It’s not about what worked yesterday, it’s about what works today.
Tenable – Realistically, can you sustain your ongoing training program month after month, year after year?
Embraced – Will it be viewed as something to improve skills, or punishment?
Rewarding – It always comes down to, what’s in it for me? There has to be consequences, either positive or negative, of doing/not doing the training.

Implementing an ongoing F&I training program prevents F&I managers from becoming complacent and ensures they continue to improve their consultative skills. If they don’t want to follow your ongoing training program, then what are they going to do to improve their skills? Doing nothing is not an option. An ongoing training program will ensure you have a proven process you can use to get new managers up to speed and productive immediately. More importantly, it will result in consistent process-driven results, so the bottom doesn’t fall out when you lose a top producer.

What Is the Real Value of Ongoing Training?

Implementing an ongoing training program that builds on your managers’ initial training will increase their product sales, F&I income and your income! When ongoing training is something that is both expected and tracked, F&I now becomes a career, not a job. Ongoing training also reduces turnover, and ensures no manager is irreplaceable. As we tell dealers all the time, if you think training F&I managers and having them leave is expensive, try not training them and having them stay!

The real value of implementing an ongoing training program in your dealerships is that it instills the expectation of continuous improvement. Performance doesn’t improve because you or the dealer demands it. Performance improves when you implement a process to ensure it happens. With an ongoing training program, goals now become achievable. Complacency is simply not acceptable. Continuous improvement is expected: “Here’s where you are, here’s where we need to be and here’s how we’re going to get there!”

With ongoing training, your dealers will see consistent results, constant improvement and everybody will make more money. More importantly, a SMARTER ongoing F&I training program brings real value to doing business with your agency, and demonstrates your commitment to your dealers. That commitment always gets noticed, continuously creating new business opportunities for you!

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Saab Cars North America Selects Ally Financial as Recommended Provider of F&I Products

DETROIT – Ally Financial has been selected as the recommended provider of finance and insurance (F&I) products and services for Saab dealerships in the United States.

Ally Financial will offer its Repair Advantage line of vehicle service and maintenance contracts to customers through Saab dealers, along with a comprehensive suite of ancillary F&I products, including guaranteed asset protection (GAP), lease wear and tear, tire and wheel protection, appearance protection, and theft deterrence. Saab dealers can also take advantage of Ally’s commercial insurance products and services including wholesale inventory insurance as well as access to property and casualty insurance packages offered by third party partners for the dealership.

Ally was previously selected in March as the preferred source of wholesale and retail financing for qualified Saab dealers and customers in North America and internationally.

“Saab is pleased to have Ally Financial as a lending partner for Saab dealers across the U.S,” said Mike Colleran, president & COO, Saab Cars North America. “This relationship offers our dealers and customers more financial options to meet their individual needs. We appreciate the interest and support of Ally Financial.”

“Ally is pleased to build upon its strong relationships with Saab dealers and customers,” said Tom Callahan of Ally Financial. “As a market leader, we provide insurance programs with an experienced and dedicated sales team and leading edge technology. We are confident of our ability to help augment a dealer’s business while meeting customer needs.”

Repair Advantage provides vehicle service and maintenance products that can be tailored to meet the needs of customers. Ally also offers a fully integrated menu selling system for dealers. As an added service, the Ally team will assist dealers in complying with state and local regulations and also provide service and training.

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Key To F&I Success: Attract and Attain Top-Notch Personnel

As an agent for auto dealers who intends to stand out above the crowd, one of our main focuses is income development. We thrive on making the dealers’ front and back grosses increase, while improving customer relations, and helping dealers sell more units.

Frequently, however, we are asked, “How do you really make the needle move?” Clearly, this question is highly complicated, as there is no ‘magic dust’ that can simply be used with 100 percent success in every dealership. If I had to pick the next best thing to a magic solution, however, it would certainly be attracting and attaining the absolute best personnel.

This begs several questions, of course. How can dealers ensure they hire the best possible people? What are the things to look for to know if someone is a good fit? What types of questions should dealers ask interviewees?

Hiring the best people requires patience. An industry-renowned motivational speaker, Dave Anderson, says we should “hire slow, fire fast.” Typically in the car business, we do the exact opposite of that. Lots of times we fall in love with a candidate due to their overall likeability, their resume or the level at which they came recommended, and we don’t really uncover the information that will lead us to know if they can succeed.

Instead, we should take our time through the interview process. Always line up multiple candidates, regardless of how good the first one you run across may be. When you perform interviews, test an interviewee’s most important traits by asking the right questions. When do you want to know that a candidate has the appropriate talent, drive and character to do the job? Before you hire them!

Want to test sales talent? Try asking them to sell you a random, inanimate object. You’re looking for them to ask you questions about how you plan on using the product. A natural ability to sell will always do this.

Want to test character? Try asking them about a time they had a disagreement with a boss and how it was resolved. You will be amazed by the outpouring of honestly that occurs in these situations. Furthermore, if they can’t name a single time this has happened, you know they’re either lacking drive, or they’re lying.

Want to test drive? Ask them if they’d rather have a job working 40 hours a week, making $50,000 or working 60 hours a week, making $90,000. You’ll find out a TON about what motivates them and what their work ethic will be like.

Clearly, there is no certain way to always find the best hires. One thing is certain, however, and that’s by being patient and thorough, you can overcome many of the hiring mistakes that are commonly made. At the end of the day, the single biggest factor in being able to move the needle is having motivated, high-character, highly-driven individuals. All the training in the world won’t help unless you have someone willing to learn.

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F&I Performance Down in 2009, NADA Reports

The recession’s effects on the industry last year wasn’t lost on F&I, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association’s DATA report, which showed declines in aftermarket income, F&I and service-contract acceptance rates.

Aftermarket income (combined gross from F&I and service contracts) fell to 25.7 percent of new- and used-vehicle department gross profit in 2009, down from nearly 30 percent in 2008 “as customers economized during the deepening recession,” the report stated.

F&I and service-contract penetration rates fell for new and used vehicles combined, as financing became difficult for customers with credit rated “Alt-A” and below.

Service-contract penetration for new vehicles held share at 32.4 percent in 2009, far from the relative peaks of 35 percent in 1986 and 34 percent in 2004.

On a positive note, 2009 did show some improvements from the previous year.

Gross profit margin on new-vehicle sales was 4.5 percent of the selling price in 2009, up from 4.4 percent in 2008 when gas prices were volatile.

Last year also saw a year-over-year improvement in new-vehicle F&I penetration, which stood at 55.7 percent in 2009.

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UDS Launches F&I Webinar Series for Dealer Partners

CLEARWATER, Fla. – United Development Systems, Inc. (UDS) has launched the UDS Webinar Series – aimed at bringing its award-winning F&I Training directly to its partners.

“Our promise to our dealer partners is monthly training on various F&I related topics,” said Randy Crisorio, UDS president and CEO. “Using webinar technology will allow us to more conveniently and consistently deliver on that promise to present quality F&I training solutions.”

The UDS Webinar Series will consist of monthly online sessions covering a variety of F&I-related topics. Planned topics will range from The F&I Interview Process, to Lender Relations, Compliance, and AutoMenu(TM) Selling Strategies.

Each webinar will last 60 minutes or less, enabling even the busiest of managers an opportunity to login and participate. Additionally, UDS dealer partners will have unlimited access to archived sessions via its websites’ partner portal.

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Zurich Enhances F&I Product Offerings with Zurich Shield Windshield Protection

SCHAUMBURG, Ill. – Automobile dealers can now offer their customers a full array of finance and insurance (F&I) products from Zurich, a provider of F&I products for automotive businesses in the United States, with the release of Zurich’s new F&I product – Zurich ShieldTM Windshield Protection.

According to Tina Mallie, head of Direct Markets for Zurich’s North America Commercial business, current research shows new-vehicle buyers are holding on to their cars and trucks for longer periods, making quality F&I products like Zurich ShieldTM an even more valuable profit-generator for automobile dealers’ than ever before.

Zurich ShieldTM Windshield Protection is an addition to the already popular Zurich ShieldTM Environmental Protection product, which was designed to protect the interior and exterior of a vehicle from harmful elements, road grime, stains and normal wear and tear.

Mallie said, “Another selling point for automobile dealers to share with their customers is how Zurich’s F&I products can also increase the resale value of a vehicle by providing a defense mechanism against exterior and interior damage.”

Zurich also offers automobile, truck and powersport dealers the following F&I products:

  • Vehicle service contracts
  • Certified vehicle program
  • Maintenance program
  • Road hazard tire & wheel
  • Guaranteed Auto Protection (GAP)
  • Universal Security Guard® theft-deterrent system

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